In a highly produced "show" in San Francisco, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced Wednesday that the company is launching a long-form video platform aimed at luring the kinds of online celebrity "creators" and fans who have long flocked to YouTube.
While the initial roll-out of the new video platform is available in the updated version of Instagram, the company plans to launch a standalone app called IGTV just for videos and, perhaps most importantly, for video discovery.
First, being designed and meant for consumption on mobile devices means that videos on IGTV will be vertical and take up the entire screen, letting users hold the phone as they usually do while using it. Up until now, video uploads were limited to just one minute on Instagram, but IGTV extends that limit to an hour. And when you open up the app, video is going to start playing right away.
Instagram's parent company, Facebook, has also been making a concerted effort to bolster its video, including adding new ways for creators to monetize videos and for audiences to (literally) play along.
Tech firms such as Facebook, Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) YouTube and Snap Inc's (SNAP.N) Snapchat have been spending heavily to grow mobile video services that will attract both users and corporate brand advertising.
"That is obviously a very reasonable place to end up", Mr. Systrom said during a news conference.
That trend appears to be one of the reasons that Facebook is "hedging its bets" by opening Instagram to the longer-form videos typically found on YouTube, said analyst Paul Verna of the research firm eMarketer.
While I understand the reason IGTV videos are vertical-only (the primary focus is smartphone users), it is a bit short-sighted. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Systrom said Instagram wants to make it possible for anyone to become famous from Instagram TV, not just the people who already have large audiences.
Systrom described the new app as "a separate space, a dedicated space to enjoy video without being distracted". Her channel focuses on her and her fiancé, Kane Vato, traveling the world to make ideal pictures - many of which are her in a bikini - for her Instagram feed, which has 2 million followers. You will be able to view the content using the Instagram app too, apparently. Once you do, you can post videos by clicking on your own profile avatar within IGTV. Also like TV, IGTV has channels. When you follow a creator on Instagram, their IGTV channel will show up for you to watch. Anyone can post their own videos to IGTV via the app or the web and create their own "channel". Smaller accounts will only be given 10-minute video limits, but Instagram did not specify the exact criteria for what qualifies an account for the longer video option.